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Love the Hard Way (NR)
Kino International
Official Site
Director: Peter Sehr
Producers: Wolfram Tichy, Peter Sehr
Written by: Marie Nöelle and Peter Sehr
Cast:  Adrien Brody, Charlotte Ayanna, Jon Seda, Pam Grier, August Diel

Rating: out of 5

Had it not been for Adrien Brody’s recent Oscar win, this film might never have seen the light of day. Thankfully, an impassioned four minute speech and a few prize photo ops were enough to guarantee the theatrical release of this rough, but memorable gem.

Jack (Brody) is a hustler in every sense of the word, equipped with a snakeskin leather jacket, effortless swagger, and carefully disheveled hair. He’s a Rat Pack reject turned small-time gangster who makes his living ripping off foreign business men with his partner Charlie (Seda). Yet, underneath his tough guy exterior, Jack is a sensitive soul who spends his spare time collecting rare books and writing pulp fiction novels.

When Jack meets Claire (Ayanna), a naïve Ivy League undergrad, there is an instant attraction. He’s drawn to her wide-eyed innocence, and she’s intrigued by his other-worldly confidence and dangerous lifestyle. Claire immediately becomes infatuated with Jack, desperate to win his love at all costs. When he rejects her, Claire embarks on a painfully self-destructive path that immerses her further and further into Jack’s seedy underground world.

At times, the storyline leaves something to be desired.  The initial romance between Jack and Claire is underdeveloped, and both characters undergo drastic transformations that strain credibility.  Claire’s fall from innocence, though powerful and effective, happens a little too quickly and is a little too extreme to be wholly believable. Despite these inconsistencies, the film remains intriguing and unpredictable throughout and manages to infuse enough humor in the right places to offset the intense drama.

The true backbone of Love the Hard Way lies in the pitch-perfect performances of its actors. As Jack, Brody deftly turns a character who could easily have been clichéd and tiresome into a charismatic but still sympathetic leading man. His intricate performance makes it easy to understand why Claire keeps running into Jack’s arms time and time again when she should be running away. Ayanna is equally impressive, skillfully playing Claire with subtlety and a quiet intensity. Seda and Grier round out the superb cast, making the best of their small roles as Jack’s loyal friend and a tough New York City vice cop, respectively.

Love the Hard Way more than makes up for its shortcomings with brilliant performances and an unpredictable take on the tragic love story. If you’re an Adrien Brody fan, this film is definitely worth a full-price ticket. If not, I’d at least spring for a matinee.

—Jennifer Mosley


hybridCinema Ratings Guide:

Take a pal and pay full price for both tickets.

It’s worth a full-price ticket.

It’s worth a matinee ticket.

Wait for video rental.

Check out the video from the library, if you must.

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